Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rocking the boat and unrolling the note (Roy Harper)

A work colleague asked me recently, when looking at my CD collection, what my current favourite was.

I couldn't think of any one fav at the time, maybe because I was trying to think of something current.

But then, when I thought about it afterwards, I realised that I have been playing two CDs pretty much every day since I got back from holiday.

Not only that but I've been listening to them on and off since I first heard them in the late 70s.

I'm talking about Roy Harper's Stormcock and Keith Jarrett's The Koln Concert.

I have old cassette tape copies of each one and I found CD versions of them in the UK and France on my recent holiday.

Each album has four tracks on it that link to each other thematically and musically. None of which will ever be played on the radio so they won't ever feature on Gregarious' blog of the seventies. The instrumentation is pretty sparse on each one. Jarrett is playing solo on his piano. Harper is largely singing and playing acoustic guitar. Curiously, it is the only album in their respective catalogues that does it for me too. I have tried but these two are special because they each reveal a degree of individual brilliance and passion and connectiveness that is missing in their other albums for me.

My cassette of Stormcock was recorded by me from a mate's album in the late 70s. He had a lot of Genesis and Harper albums that he wanted me to tape for him (no idea why) and of all the albums he gave me to record only Stormcock shone through with it's brilliance.

Roger Marbeck gave me a cassette recording of the Koln Concert. I never would have listened to it otherwise. Solo piano and a double album?? No way! I think it was part of a large number of cassettes he didn't want anymore. There was some good stuff in the pile but Jarrett's concert was the one that stuck.

With both albums it doesn't matter how many times I hear them, I always hear something new. I think this will continue to be the case.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Here's to the dawn of their days (Joan Baez)

I have spent a large portion of today trawling through my 6 CD box set of Woodstock (40th Anniversary version). It's a glorious way to spend the day (Fridays in the Middle East being a particular slow day and Ramadan means no cafes until 8pm) .

I managed to get the set from Fives in Leigh-on-Sea for a great price. I'd seen it at The Virgin Mega-store in the Mall of the Emirates (Dubai) for 700 dirhams (about $240NZ or 120 pounds) but that seemed a lot so I thought I'd wait and see if I could get it in the UK. It's not like it wouldn't be there when I returned from holiday at 700 dirhams right?

So - we went to London and then Paris and no one had it. Not Virgin, or HMV or FOPP. They all told me it would be tough to find as it came out in 2009. If I could find one, it was listed at 75 pounds - a lot cheaper than in Dubai, so I kept looking.

Until we went to Leigh-on-Sea for a day trip. Of course Fives had one. I gave a run down of my search in vain to the lady who owns and runs Fives and she said, "You mean like that one up there?", pointing to the collection of box sets on the wall!

My heart was beating fast as I asked her how much?

"52 pounds", she replied!

And it's fantastic. Tons of tracks not on any other version and some old favourites like Sweet Sir Galahad that appeared on the Woodstock 2 double album.

I love this song (a rare Joan Baez original) and I always think that line "but oh, was I born too late?" relates to me somehow, with my fascination for an event that took place when I was 11 in Nu Zild, a country so different to 1969 America that we might as well have lived on a different planet in a different solar system!

Joan Baez is an acquired taste and her warble can irrate me at times but her singing on this song is divine.

Go to you tube via the link for a Woodstock treat.

or else play this one from the Smother Brothers TV show:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The shadow play (Rory Gallagher)

A big celebration to note this week - the hurrah/ wahoo is for the release of Adam's new collection of music under his Bambino moniker. It's called Cold Wood Burn and you can download it here:

I urge you to take the trouble to download and listen. Here are some review comments from an unbiased source (i.e not me)

This new release pretty much refines the trademark ‘Bambino sound’ that was established on Monitors, covering some familiar ground while exploring some new directions as well.   

There is a good amount of variety in the tracks which makes for an interesting listen from start to finish. The range of vocal stylings (singing, rapping, speaking, sampled voice) give additional flavour to each track and deliver a sense of diversity that blurs the very definition of instrumental music where voice becomes simply another proponent of mood and/or melody. At first I thought this might make the changes between tracks seem a bit jarring but it’s all integrated quite seamlessly and bound together by the uniform production values. Overall there’s a lot of atmosphere, I like the deep reverbs and textures in parts. 

The speaking on ‘My Brother’ is really cool, normally I cringe a bit at spoken word in a New Zealand accent but this was perfect, intense but not over worked. I love the lyrics, made especially powerful by the dissonance of the (amplified/overdriven?) keys. Great track.Probably my favourite aspect of the album has been just putting it on and letting it run, there is a style and atmosphere to it which is not only enjoyable to listen to but above all, unique. 

There you have it - go take a listen!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What do you get when you fall in love? (Isaac Hayes)

I'm back in Al Ain with my horde of CDs from the trip to UK and France.

I've written already about the sad, and increasing, trend for CD stores to wither and die, but I did have success as well as the disappointment of finding favourite stores closed down.

I managed to knock a few titles off my wants list: Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert and Riverside (Virgin Megastore France); Josh T Pearson and the 6 CD Woodstock box set (Fives in Leigh-on-Sea); DJ Shadow (FOPP in London) and Symphony X (HMV in Oxford St) were some of the harder to find things. Other titles that I can't get in Dubai or Abu Dhabi like the latest from Bon Iver, Wild Beasts and Fleet Foxes were also in the haul.

I'm working through the purchases and so far only one dud to report - Billy Cobham's Shabazz. And even then - maybe not a dud. When I put it on Jacky hated it so I whipped it out of the machine to try in the car sometime when she's not around.

I was amazed to find a lot of live archival CDs by bands like Jefferson Airplane on my travels. [Maybe a niche to explore. I know there is a website that just has old convert tapes to download]. One of my favourite all time albums is their 30 Seconds Over Winterland. I found a double live CD by JA at Winterland in 1972 that I've had on repeat for days.

It's not brilliantly recorded but it does shine a light on some neglected back catalogue jems from Long John Silver and Bark. It's great to hear Paul Kantner and Grace Slick soar through songs like When The Earth Moves Again (from Bark). Their voices combine so well! Amazingly Jack Cassidy gets the biggest cheer from the fans!

I'm currently grooving to Black Moses by Isaac Hayes. Another great (under rated) vocalist. The dude could really sing!!